By Jim Axelrod, CBS News
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – At the J.W. Hulme Company in St. Paul, the empty seats at sewing machines tell the story of the biggest challenge for this booming leather goods manufacturer.
CEO Jen Guarino has enough demand to run a second shift, but not enough workers.
“If we had a new sewer we’d sit them right here and they would begin to learn to specialize in those products,” Guarino said. “Can’t find them.”
Neither can 60 other companies in Minnesota looking to fill 100 jobs. So they banded together with a local trade school to form the Maker’s Coalition to train the next generation of highly skilled sewers.
If students complete the 22-week course, they’re guaranteed a job.
“And what’s amazing about it is that you can build something and sometimes they don’t come. We’re building it and they’re coming,” she said.
When Larry Corbesia finishes the course, this 60-year-old former construction worker will have his first full-time job with benefits in 17 years.
“I was just talking to somebody about that. I go ‘I don’t feel too manly, you know, telling people I’m a sewer, you know?’” Corbesia said.
But this is nothing to laugh about, not for a guy raising his 12-year old granddaughter. They were homeless just two months ago, living on welfare and a monthly food stamp budget of $200.
Tuition is $4,000, but the coalition provides scholarships. Later this month, the first class will graduate 18 students.
Guarino says training skilled works trumps building a successful business.
“It’s bigger, it’s more important,” Guarino said.
For companies needing high skilled workers, it is a way to good while ensuring they do well.
For more information on the Makers Coalition, click here.